Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Review of Rachel's Tears

In Rachel's Tears, Rachel's parents, Beth Nimmo and Darrell Scott, teamed up with writer Steve Rabey to tell the story of their daughter who was murdered at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999.

When I sat down to read I made sure I had tissues handy, but I didn't need them for the reason I expected. I assumed I would be reading a tragedy. Instead, I found in the pages of Rachel's Tears a story of hope, and the story of a young girl who had a love for Christ that knew no bounds.

Pages of Rachel's journals are scattered throughout the book. She composed poems, sketched, and wrote out her prayers. I was touched by each and every entry. Her words praised and questioned God, expressed her love for Jesus and her family and friends, and several even prophesied her own death.

My teen years were spent struggling against God and pulling away from Him. While reading this book, I cried for lost years. Had the shooting taken place in my high school many years ago, I surely would not have had the strength to stand up for my faith, what little I had managed to cling to.

This is actually a very hard book to review. Rachel's parents want the focus to be on Rachel's relationship with God, not on her as a person. They did not want her deified, but merely set as an example to show other teens what joy can be found in Christ. I can't express in this small space her complex relationship with the Lord she loved so deeply. You need the book in your hands, you need to see her drawings and read her poems and prayers.

I recommend this book for parents of teens as well as the teens themselves. This is a huge opportunity to talk about the struggles that fill teen years, and to show teens that they can turn to God no matter what the circumstance. Give this book to your teen along with a journal. Encourage them to write to God as Rachel did. Let them keep the contents private, but be there for them to talk to. If you get nothing else out of this book, it should be that parents need to be a part of their children's lives.

We all need someone to open our hearts to. Jesus is available 24/7, and Rachel Joy Scott turned to Him with everything. We should all be so willing.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Recall for Contest Entry--The Dragons Are Singing Tonight

Oh, this is a disaster. My computer crashed this week, taking with it the names and email addresses of the entrants in the contest for The Dragons Are Singing Tonight. If you entered this contest via a comment on my website, please submit your entry again.

I apologize deeply for this! I am quite diligent about backing up things such as photos, and of course my writing, but I never gave thought to emails!

If you're not familiar with the book that is up for grabs, please take a look here:

The Dragons Are Singing Tonight by Jack Prelutsky

To enter, leave a comment on my blog, or click on the "eye" in the upper right corner and leave a comment on any page of my website. I PROMISE I will back up my email this time.

I'll contact the winner by email this Thursday and post his/her (first) name on the blog as well.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A writer's life for me?

This post is most likely going to wander. I've just finished Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird and I've been pondering much of what she said. The book is fabulous, btw. I'm not going to review it, though. It doesn't need to be reviewed--it just needs to be read by every writer out there.

I thought the writing bug bit me only a year and a half ago when I started working on my novel, Finding Angel. I felt an overwhelming desire to have my name on the cover of a book--a desire that seemed to hit out of the blue. But once I embraced it, I began to remember things from my youth--a sixteen-year-old me sitting on my bed with a legal pad and pen, trying to write a novel that compared with Flowers in the Attic. Oh, yeah, I may have gotten a sentence or two out before crumpling the page in frustration.
I believed I didn't have it in me. I was good at writing and I knew it--the straight A's on all of my assignments attested to that. But I didn't feel like my heart was in it. My heart beat for art. I was rarely found without a pencil in hand, sketching. I didn't realize back then that a person can have more than one skill, much less more than one passion.
But over the years, I've discovered I am a person of many passions. And when my husband said to me, "Honey, if you want to write a book, I'll be supportive," I took him up on it. I dove in head first, and I've barely come up for air since.
Writing takes everything you've got. Just like any other artform, a writer's work is a piece of her soul. Artistic masterpieces, musical masterpieces, written masterpieces--they all have that in common. It's exhausting and lonely work, and one of the most gratifying experiences possible. I believe God made us in His image, and He creates--why would we not?
Still, on a daily basis I wonder if I'm doing the wrong thing. My kids are young. Am I neglecting them by spending so much time in front of the computer? Well, we homeschool, so we have lots of interactive time. But I'm a mom. Guilt comes with the job. My house is not spotless, my truck needs to be vacuumed, dinner is usually a last-minute decision. All because I have this crazy dream, which may or may not be realized based on the publishing goals of people I haven't even met.
And then weeks like this last one happen. I've received THREE acceptances for personal essays. That makes five out of six essays that I've written scheduled for publication. The sixth was only recently submitted, so I merely haven't heard back on that one yet. I'd say that's a pretty good track record.
So, I plug on, encouraged once again that I'm on the right track.

Friday, February 13, 2009

ROTC at the Nerd Table?

Apparently I can't let go of this analogy. I had not intended to make this into a series of posts, but I just finished another book by Christian author Amy Deardon. The book is called A Lever Long Enough. A military-meets-Christian novel. Hm, ROTC at the nerd table.

I first found out about Lever on Randall Ingermanson's blog. He endorsed the book, and I can see why. This is definitely a "guy book." (It's so cool when girls write guy books--proves we're not all into chic lit :). Technology abounds, military projects are compromised, war is at hand...you get the picture. Amidst it all, the Isreali military has developed a time machine, and a group of soldiers is sent back in time to film the theft of Jesus's body from the tomb in order to disprove His resurrection.

Her book is not for the reader who wants something quick and easy. It reminded me of sci-fi from the eighties, back when "just move it along and entertain" wasn't the golden rule of writing. But it's a contemporary version of the old hard science sci-fi, with the added twist of ancient Jerusalem. Amy really researched the science behind the technology in her book, as well as the history of Jerusalem, and she lets it show. She took her writing seriously, and put her all into it.

Amy Deardon's passion shows in the book as well. She was a skeptic for a long time, actually searching on her own for proof against Christ's resurrection. What she discovered in her research surprised her, dismayed her, and eventually won her over. (Yay!)

Visit Amy at her blog http://amydeardon.blogspot.com/ or her site http://www.amydeardon.com/.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Giveaway for dragon lovers

I recently visited Donita K. Paul's blog (she's one of my favorite authors) and saw that she had posted some pictures of items in her dragon collection.

Well, I am also a dragon lover. I don't have the collection she has going, because I have an aversion to dusting and therefore anything that may need to be dusted. Love dragons, hate dusting more.

I do, however, love books more than I hate dusting. Many of the books I own have dragons as characters (like the DragonKeepers series by, you guessed it, Donita K. Paul). And as an excuse to have even more dragon books in the house, I buy them for my eight-year-old son--stuff like Dragonology...

...and one of my favorite childrens books of all time, The Dragons Are Singing Tonight, by Jack Prelutsky.

I originally bought The Dragons Are Singing Tonight as part of a fundraiser for a local group. I had never heard of it, but it had "dragons" in the title and the other books in the catalog did not. That, of course, meant it must be the best in the lot :).

I fell in love with it the moment I opened it.

The pages are filled with poetry centered around dragons, from serious to scary, fanciful to funny. Some of the poems are a mere four lines long, others are closer to thirty lines. My favorite poem in the book is one of the former:

If you don't believe in dragons,
It is curiously true
That the dragons you disparage
Choose to not believe in you.

I think that pretty much sums it up--dragons rely on our belief and imagination in order to exist, and I'm certainly not going to contribute to their extinction :).

Wonderful illustrations by Peter Sis accompany each poem, and there are seventeen in all.

My kids and I love this book so much I've recently had to order a replacement copy because ours literally fell apart at the seams. So, I thought, "Why not order two and give one away?"

So I did.

Click on the "eye" in the upper right hand corner of this blog, and leave a message on any page of my website. I'll choose a winner at random and send you a copy of The Dragons Are Singing Tonight.

If you win, this is what you'll be getting.

Good luck!!!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

What Happened Next...

Shawna Williams has had her short story published in the ezine "Long Story Short."

"What Happened Next" is a tale of a family photo, and what happened to make the moments before and after the flash so memorable. To give you the flavor of her story, I will say this--it for some reason brings to my mind the Thunder Mountain Railroad ride at Disney. Wild and fast, country and funny, and you step off with a smile on your face.

Check it out, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Taking the Challenge

I mentioned in another post that I received a rejection on a short story recently. I have decided to take this as a challenge.

A friend who read the story while I was waiting on the reply told me that I should have expanded it into a book. The funny thing is, she's someone who just posted on her blog not too long ago about using cut scenes from books-in-progress to make short stories. But she's absolutely right about this situation.

I feel completely freed by this decision. I was initially going to shave the story down, and try to intensify the action. Compress it so it builds pressure quickly. But it pained me. I love the character in this story. She seems to have so much background, and I didn't want to cheat her of the spiritual growth she'd gained by chopping out the deep parts and ratcheting up the mortal danger parts. It's just not that kind of story.

So, now I add another plate to the juggling act that is my life.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Nerds and Prom Queens

In keeping with my high school cafeteria analogy, I'm going to ask this question-

What would happen if the Prom Queen walked over and sat at the nerd table?

You can find your answer in It's Not About Me by Michelle Sutton. Her book is an edgy YA romance, a novel that is carving the way for others like it.

At first, I was a little reluctant to discuss this book. Not because of it's edginess, of course, but because it's a romance. I'm not a romance reader. I think I may have mentioned that once or twice :). I had intended to keep my reviews and discussions about books more in line with my genre, with the exception of those books from the review program I am a member of.

But, Michelle's book is for teens, and it fits perfectly in my analogy. (Yes, I did read it, too. It's not all kissing, but I won't give away the intense parts.)

The main character, Annie, is literally Prom Queen. She is judged based on her looks--by nearly everyone, including herself. But she soon discovers there is more to life than looks, and more to love than sex.

Oops--I just said the "s"-word, didn't I? Well, if you want to read Michelle's book you're going to have to get over that. She sticks to a biblical message, but she does so without mincing words.

And let's face it--you cannot mince words with teens today. If that scares you, if you are afraid of letting your teen daughter read something like this, then you need to take a trip to the local bookstore or library and read what is in the secular teen books.

Guess what--sex, sex, and more sex. And there are no biblical standards to be seen. (Well, there's abstinence in Twilight, but that's only to avoid death by vampirism.)

Michelle tackles the issue of teen sex, no holds barred, and from a biblical perspective. She tackles a few other issues, too.

My point? Being a nerd does not isolate us from the problems faced by prom queens. Nerds deal with pressure for sex, drinking, drugs, and all the others teen issues. We have the same hormones, the same insecurities, the same needs as prom queens and jocks. Nerds, populars, geeks and freaks, Christians and non-Christians--we're all human. Christians are not immune to issues of the world any more than nerds are immune to the pressures of high school.

The difference is, Christians have the Bible as a guidebook to live by, and to turn to when dealing with these issues. But if we want our teens to go to the Bible for guidance, we need to show them why and how. There are reasons God lays His laws out, and teens need to understand the consequences of ignoring those laws, and the rewards for obeying them, in terms that apply to their lives.

It's hard to see beyond "me" in this world. Add to that raging hormones and peer pressure, and it's nearly impossible. Teens need books that help them regain, or newly gain, their focus on Christ so they can face the hurricane of adolesence.

Nerds may study physics for fun, but if you want prom queens to understand gravitational pull, you need to show them how it affects them. And go deeper than, "It leads to saggy skin someday."

Visit Michelle's website at http://www.michellesutton.net/ where you can learn about Michelle and her books, and link to Christian Fiction Online Magazine. She has several blogs, including http://edgyinspirationalauthor.blogspot.com/, which, as the name implies, is focused on her thoughts on edgy Christian fiction.

PS--I just realized...me reading romance...that makes punk-nerd meets prom queen. Oh, my :).